the final wilmer-hutchins story

Here’s my story from today’s paper, on the final closing of the Wilmer-Hutchins Independent School District. Long-time readers know that I’ve written roughly three gazillion stories on Wilmer-Hutchins; because of its many problems, it is shutting down forever at midnight tonight. You might find this story worth your time.

The earthly remains of Wilmer-Hutchins were, in the end, few.

A few broken buildings. Some debts, some indictments. A few thousand kids who learned less than they should have.

Everything that could be put in boxes was Thursday, as the Wilmer-Hutchins Independent School District slipped into the past tense. After decades of mismanagement and crisis, Wilmer-Hutchins will legally cease to exist when the clock strikes midnight tonight. Under orders from the state of Texas, it will be absorbed into the Dallas school district.

“It’s a sad day for the district, but it’s also a new day,” said Donnie Foxx, one of the state-appointed managers who have shepherded the district through its declining days.

The district’s skeleton staff – down to 10 from more than 400 two years ago – went out for a nice lunch at Truluck’s and said their goodbyes Thursday afternoon.

They would have locked the doors one last time. But Dallas staffers were too busy carting off the district’s remaining items of value.

“I think in the long run, kids will have a better chance to get a good education – that’s the important part,” said Ron Rowell, the Texas Education Agency employee who has spent the past few months as acting superintendent.

For decades, his agency was criticized for not doing enough to stop corruption and mismanagement in Wilmer-Hutchins. The district was sick, residents said, and needed immediate attention from TEA.

They got their wish. But most residents hoped the patient could be saved. Instead, state officials chose a mercy killing.

And if you want to stroll down Hutch memory lane, the paper has posted some of the high points of my stories on the district since 2004.